Port Alberni Squash &Fitness has received approval from city council in its bid to increase liquor-serving capacity from 25 people to 111.
Business manager Candace Travers said during Monday’s city council meeting that the increase is because she wants to increase seating capacity for events.
“I’d like to put on some tournaments and BC championships, Island championships,” she said. “I need a bit more seating capacity for these events.”
The newly-renovated recreation centre features three squash courts, 10 pool tables and a full fitness gym. According to Travers, the fire code is set to fit 137 people.
She tried to apply for a special liquor license last year to put on these events, but was unsuccessful in her application because she is already licensed.
A number of residents and business owners near the building’s location wrote in to express their opposition to the increase, citing worries about noise complaints, vandalism, litter and the increase of alcohol to an already problem area.
Councillor Jack McLeman agreed, “I personally have a problem in that location, increasing the alcohol and the ability to get it. Because we have enough trouble there in my mind. How do you address that problem?”
“I have a very good rapport in the industry,” said Travers. “I’ve never had any troubles putting on any events that I’ve ever done. I feel I can handle any situation and I feel I can do a good job keeping everything under control.”
Councillor Chris Alemany said he was reassured to hear the application was more about the capacity of people than the drinking aspect. “From the people that have been in the establishment, the reports I’ve had are nothing but extremely positive,” he said. “We have plenty of buildings in town that are questionably known, but if we’re here to support businesses, I would rather support the good than the bad.”
He said he would support the application if it would allow more events and good use of the area.
Councillor Sharie Minions agreed, “I definitely have concerns about adding more alcohol use to the area. There are issues in the area that we want to help rather than hurt.”
But she added, “I wonder if this is possibly a way to bring a new demographic of people into that area.”
City CAO Tim Pley confirmed that there have been no outstanding issues with the facility with regards to fire, building or bylaws.
“It’s not going to have 110 people every weekend,” said Travers.
“It’s a lounge environment. It’s not a nightclub environment, those people will not be allowed in. I’m very picky about people who I do allow in.”
She added that she wants the club to become mostly a member-oriented place, aside from a few tournaments and events.
City council recommended approval of PA Squash and Fitness’s change to their liquor license, although it is up to the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to make the final decision.